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During the state budget crisis, they're true to their schools

It's commendable that some communities are helping out their schools during the mess in Sacramento, but the situation could lead to greater disparities in education.

July 01, 2009

There's not much to cheer amid the budget crises confronting California, along with so many of its cities and counties. But the tiny city of Hawaiian Gardens, best known as the home of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, dug into its tiny budget last week and did a little bit of good. Faced with the closure of local schools for the summer, the City Council tapped its carry-over accounts from the current budget (the casino provides enough revenue to the city that it's relatively protected from the current downturn) and allocated $120,000 to a special account overseen by the local school district. The money can be spent only on schools that serve Hawaiian Gardens students, and it will allow the district to run three elementary schools and a middle school through July.

"Education is the key for these poor kids," said Michael Gomez, the city's mayor. "We're giving them a chance."

As Sacramento dithers and deadlocks, other communities are acting: San Marino residents recently approved a parcel tax for their schools, as did those in the South Pasadena and Palos Verdes school districts; voters in the La Canada Flintridge and Rowland districts are voting today on similar measures. Those are, for the most part, well-to-do communities with long traditions of political support for public schools. Their willingness to tax themselves is heartening, but emphasizes one of the many dangers in Sacramento's collapse: Those areas that can fend for themselves will, while others may fall further behind.

In Hawaiian Gardens, as many as 640 students who otherwise would have been shut out of summer school will instead get an extra month in the classroom, and a few dozen teachers will have summer work. It's not an approach that should prevail everywhere; summer school should not trump medical care or housing, for instance. But for the children of Hawaiian Gardens, summer school opened Monday, one bright spot in a dim summer.

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